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Video Games Are Hard: Communal Play and Changing the Classroom
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My favorite parts of teaching about video games are the moments where we play them as part of the class. Just as English literature classes need to read books to work, my class plays video games to understand them more deeply. The most interesting part, though, is what happens when we play games together.

One of the key projects in my Video Games, Communication, and Culture class has been the joint play of World of Warcraft. We take several class periods to play the game as a group, and students are assigned additional expectations for leveling and navigating the world outside of class. We finish by running an instance together, which is a great opportunity to see students and teacher work together in different and unusual ways. Shortly after the class started at Seattle University, it was dubbed the WoW class, but a typical reaction of students when they are in the class was summed up by one who said, “I never thought video games could be so hard.”

The clearest benefit to playing video games as part of a class is how interactions in the class quickly change when we have a new platform for action within the course. Instead of a traditional classroom experience, class starts to feel more like a LAN party, and traditional hierarchies of the classroom erode. When students have to play games as homework, they often find connections with people they may not ordinarily work with in a traditional classroom. Employing video games as part of a class can redefine social relationships within it and establish connections that benefit teaching and learning for the balance of the term. Students who never spoke in class reveal themselves as experts, and computer science and art majors find the things they have in common that they may have never discovered otherwise.

However, my favorite part of using video games in the classroom is the moment when play gets corrupted and students start to think about video games differently. When “playing” video games becomes the assigned homework, perceptions about play, work, fun, and learning are all complicated. If games are tightly integrated into the class and students are encouraged to critically reflect on how the video games impacted their learning, then the course and the video games in it can change their relationship with video games and media more broadly long after the class is over.

I think video games offer excellent opportunities for teaching and learning. They can change social relationships in class and offer a platform on which to critique the kinds of media products students are likely to encounter throughout their lives. As a textual critic I have to integrate video games into my classes as surfaces for study, but I have found that they offer much more than just a text. Video games can work as useful cultural artifacts in a classroom to dramatically reshape how a class can work.

Christopher A. Paul  

Christopher A. Paul is an assistant professor in the Communication Department at Seattle University. His book Wordplay and the Discourse of Video Games: Analyzing Words, Design, and Play was published by Routledge in 2012. His work has also appeared in Game Studies, Games and Culture, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, and First Monday.

Copyright © 2013 University of Texas Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Kyra Hunting. and Andrew Zolides. "Video Games as Useful Media: A Multiplayer Perspective." The Velvet Light Trap 72.1 (2013): 72-76. Project MUSE. Web. 10 Jul. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Hunting, K. & Zolides, A.(2013). Video Games as Useful Media: A Multiplayer Perspective. The Velvet Light Trap 72(1), 72-76. University of Texas Press. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
Kyra Hunting and Andrew Zolides. "Video Games as Useful Media: A Multiplayer Perspective." The Velvet Light Trap 72, no. 1 (2013): 72-76. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 10, 2014).
T1 - Video Games as Useful Media: A Multiplayer Perspective
A1 - Hunting, Kyra
A1 - Zolides, Andrew
JF - The Velvet Light Trap
VL - 72
IS - 1
SP - 72
EP - 76
PY - 2013
PB - University of Texas Press
SN - 1542-4251
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/the_velvet_light_trap/v072...

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